Thai protesters call general strike

The leader of anti-government protests in Thailand has called for a general strike for Monday, amid ongoing clashes in Bangkok.

Ex-deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban was speaking in a broadcast carried by almost all Thailand’s TV channels.

Sunday is the eighth day of protests aimed at unseating PM Yingluck Shinawatra. Four people have died.

Water cannon and tear gas were fired on Sunday as security forces clashed with some 30,000 anti-government protesters.

The protesters had declared Sunday the decisive “V-Day” of what they termed a “people’s coup”.

They say Ms Yingluck’s administration is controlled by her brother, exiled ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra, and they want to replace it with a “People’s Council”.

The protesters gathered at about eight sites, police said, including Government House, television stations and the police headquarters.

Correspondents say many of the sites are well-defended by security forces.

Protesters did enter several TV stations to ensure Mr Suthep’s message was aired.

He said: “To continue the people’s operation and to eliminate Thaksin’s regime, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee would like to announce that Monday 2nd December is a holiday for every government section.”

He called on the government to “think of the country, stop blaming and hurting the people, and return the power to the people”.

Mr Suthep said protesters had seized a dozen government buildings, but national security chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr told Reuters that none had been taken over.

The BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok says protesters had approached their targets in cheering, colourful columns, but could not get past the clouds of gas and concrete barricades.

He says Mr Suthep had promised a people’s revolt to overthrow the entire political system but by the end of the day he had lowered his ambitions, to a one-day general strike called for Monday.

Ms Yingluck had intended to give media interviews on Sunday at a Bangkok police complex but was forced to evacuate when protesters tried to break in. Her whereabouts are unknown.

In addition to the dead, 54 people have been wounded over the past two days, police and emergency services say.

Election ruled out

The worst violence occurred when students attacked vehicles bringing pro-government activists to a Bangkok stadium on Saturday.

Early on Sunday, pro-government “red shirt” leaders said they were ending their mass rally at the stadium to allow security forces to police rival demonstrations.

Up until Saturday the protests had been largely peaceful, with Ms Yingluck saying the government would only use minimum force.

Soldiers were then called in to help the riot police.

Our correspondent says military commanders have been reluctant to get involved but agreed to deploy the troops on condition they would carry no weapons and would stand behind riot police ringing the main government offices.

There is a high risk of greater violence if more supporters of Ms Yingluck – whose party enjoys strong backing outside Bangkok – try to come to the capital, our correspondent adds.

On Friday Ms Yingluck ruled out early elections, telling the BBC that the country was not calm enough for polls. She repeated her call for negotiations to resolve the crisis.

Thailand is facing its largest protests since 2010, when thousands of red-shirt Thaksin supporters occupied key parts of the capital. More than 90 people, mostly civilian protesters, died over the course of the two-month sit-in.